News and such

South Korean Residency   

I have been in South Korea for the past 2 weeks, an artistic rescidency with choreographer Mehdi Farajpour. When not rehearsing the performance I have spent my time walking, watching and writing new songs. I have also taken lots of pictures, some of which I hope to present in an exposition. We will be here for another week, the performance is this weekend. 

This has been such a wonderful experience, time spent creating and being with creators, eating, laughing, walking and even sailing together. Just the thing to get the creative juices moving. Another album in the making perhaps, yes.

What’s In A Standard?  

Well a lot in fact. Standards are songs that have proven to be ever malleable, soft yet durable, and pleasing as well. Last Saturday I played the Bab-Ilo in Paris (one of my favourite jazz clubs),  with a programme of “ standards.” I decided to emphasise that fact in my publicity simply because recently one of my students asked me “do you ever do just songs? I would love to hear you sing songs.” By “just songs” she really meant, straight, unbent, as written. I tried, as I always have, to explain to her that I am a jazz musician, and that she is indeed a student of a Jazz musician! Hum?

She of course came to the concert, and enjoyed the deconstructed and reconstructed standards on offer, and little by little she begins to not only understand, but also to appreciate the beauty of improvised music, and even eventually to enjoy doing it herself. 

The wonder of creating is for everyone.

An Incredible Vision 

It is so easy to slip into despair if you forget. It is easy to huddle in your sacred corner if you turn away. It is easy to ignore the other, cloaked in cords of fear. But if you just turn and remember the laughter and hugs, that beauty within, those times when a smile from a stranger lit your heart, an incredible vision will appear. Today is not the day to say no, but to affirm a yes. By embracing the light we thus disperse the dark. It is there, waiting only for your encouragement.

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

Toni Morrison on Art and Despair, via BrainPickings

After Switzerland 

Had a great time with the African Jazz Quartet in Hermance, Switzerland for Festival Jazz Sur La Plage. There was a wonderful welcoming crowd, and I must admit we were flipping' brilliant. And yes I am modest. Now I am
on the hunt for more festivals, more singing, more of life's magnificence. Hope to see you all sometime soon at an event to be announced.

Ice Skating 

Have you ever gone ice skating? Do you remember that first time?  Did you fall flat, splat, on the ground? Did you arms reach out helplessly trying to find something, anything, to hang on to, only to find that thin air is  rather poor support except for lungs.

I once went ice skating. Years ago. Hmm. Haven’t been since. Oh but I do love the feel of cold air on my lips, and the magnificent icy vapours transformed from the hot breath of my body. Hmm.

Maybe I should try skating again. Who knows.

Pula, Croatia, the Voice/Dance Experience 

Summer in Europe, as elsewhere, is a time of sun, relaxation and festivals. Smiles and laughter, too often trapped behind impossible deadlines, financial woes, unrewarding work, city stress and insecurity, have a way of finding space during those fleeting months.

I began my summer, my time of rest, doing what I love most – performing. This time not in a jazz festival, but a in a festival of theatre in Pula, Croatia. PUF, the International Theatre Festival of Pula, is in it’s 21st year and welcomes performers from around the world. I was invited by choreograph Mehdi Farajpour  to perform next to him in his new production “Yet Untitled.” It was a joyous experience which i hope to repeat.

Pula  solo face
Photo :Dejan Štifanić

Using my voice as pure instrument, free of words, but not sense, free of style but not emotion.

Sounds that float, soar and pierce the air, sometimes urgent, sometimes melancholic or vulnerable, soft and hard, sure and insecure.  My life work in music has been the exploration of the voice. Always and forever fascinated by its possibilities, I have taken enormous chances in search of the limits of this instrument with which I am blessed. Through the freedom and rule-breaking world that is jazz, I have been able to nurture a way of singing and a knowledge of music that serves me well in the contemporary dance theatre world I am now exploring.

Pula 2015 Mehdi branches
Mehdi Farajpour – PUF Festival 2015
Photo : Dejan Štifanić

I met Mehdi Farajpour at one of my concerts at Bab-Ilo. He approached me after the concert and asked if I would consider working with him, a dancer. Of course I said yes. I love dance, I love the theatre and I love collaborating within different disciplines. The encounter has proven to be fortuitous. In that space of creation we have found a rapport that hangs delicately from the branches of trust and chance, listening, observing and feeling. Our first performance was in Cologne, Germany in November of 2014, and the second, but surely not the last, was in Pula, Croatial for the Festival on June 5th. “Yet Untitled,” conceived and choreographed by Mehdi, was awarded the best performance of the PUF 2015.

Pula 2015 two shadow
Photo : Dejan Štifanić
Pula 2015 Mehdi
Photo : Dejan Štifanić
Pula 2015 face
Photo : Dejan Štifanić

This is what makes my spirit happy. Being on stage is the highest of pleasures, being before people, communicating in music, song, dance, poetry, stories. I LOVE IT.

Have a great summer.

Celebrating Self 

Last night I had a concert to announce the launch of my new album “Conversions,” that I recorded with the pianist Jobic Le Masson.  Being a modern, independent musician, I had to do everything myself, all the work that traditionally would have been performed by a producer or graphic designer or photographer. It was not easy but it was, and continues to be interesting. But one Surprising outcome of this journey has been that I have learned to love my music. Seems crazy but it is true. Why? It must be that old devil called self-doubt, the ridiculous barrier we put between ourselves and our dreams. And last night’s concert reaffirmed this new-found love.
Music is my life, my love, my friend and confidante. Yet I have too often doubted my ability to do justice to her. What a mistake that was. My music is fresh, lively and provocative, yes, but beautiful. My voice is unique and my story speaks. I am one of a kind, I am unique, as are you and you and you and you too. The rich and vibrant tapestry we create, we should learn to love. I’m so glad to be here with you.
And this afternoon I am going to Parc Floral Paris. The annual Summer Jazz Festival is happening. On the stage today are the Malian singer Fatoumia Diawara and Cuban pianist Roberto Fonseca, together sharing their musical heritages to present to us. They too are unique, they too have their own stories to tell. Magnificent too.

An audio sample from the soon to be relaxed album “Conversions” by Gwen Sampé and Jobic Le Masson.

“Your Love Came silently in the night,
Your kisses warmed summer’s flight,
You gave to me that old forgotten feeling,
A tranquil trust that this was really meant to be.
Your Love came in soft slippers on polished wood,
Your kisses helped me know that I could,
Lose myself in this mystery,
That fathomless, bottomless passion in making love.
© Gwen Sampé – words and music


The Shame of the USA, Not Just Champagne 

Last year China finally recognised Champagne’s intellectual property status. Hooray! The USA, along with Russia, Argentina and Brazil still refuse to recognise the protected status, the intellectual property of the wine growers from the Champagne region of France. A reflection for me of much that I find problematic in the US. An attitude that says “as an American I can do what the hell want! Just because I am American.” All Americans? No, of course notI One only has to notice the battles and fracturing that is happening in the US now between, broadly, those who see the social changes as not only inevitable but also good, and those who seek to entrench themselves in the past, mythical or otherwise.

I have been watching with incredulity the anti-children protests happening on the southern border of the USA. I am also proud of the counter protests, protests welcoming these exhausted, frightened human beings, these children, fleeing violence and disorder in their own countries. But unfortunately there are enough ugly, ignorant protests happening that I feel the need to say something.
The US is sometimes known for not respecting international laws and regulations, and not just about champagne. Torture comes to mind of course. But the current situation with children and mothers arriving at the border and the response of some Americans and their politicians again brings into focus American’s belief in their special status. There are refugees and asylum seekers all over the world, and many countries, less able than the US accept many more than the US and its citizens are willing to accept. Yet this refusal is against not only International law but even under American Law these refugees have a strong case for asylum. Yet what is happening is a push to deny such status to these kids and to accelerate the deportation, contrary to international law. I feel ashamed. If this were happening somewhere else americans would be encouraging the receiving countries to accept the migrants, they would be talking about moral obligation, etc;, etc. But on their own border, a different case!

Just a reminder :

“The 1951 Refugee Convention spells out that a refugee is someone who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”


Searching For The Sun 

Summer is here, and though the volatility of the weather may cast doubt on the season’s true nature, summer is indeed upon us. Renouncing the austerity of winter, now lush, spring-sprouted leaves hang from trees, dancing on a gentle wind. Color is oozing from everywhere, from flowering bushes, blossoming trees, succulent inviting, deep, dark and bright vegetables and happy smiling adults sporting exuberant colours. What a joy to watch. Sunny summers bring a smile to the hearts of even the most ardent pessimists. In France it is the abundant festivals taking place that announce the arrival of summer. It is a season of bounty for music, art, theatre and dance lovers. From the Paris Jazz Festival, to the rightly prestigious Avignon Festival, Nice Jazz Festival, a festival in Aix-en-Provence and many, many more France explodes with the sound and motion of revellers. And food and wine lovers are not left out either, with the Bordeaux wine festival and the bizarre pig festival in Trie Sur Baise to keep them occupied. Last weekend I performed in my first festival of the season, the International festival of contemporary art in Les Baux-De-Provence, a little town tucked away in the Alpilles mountains. Perched on a rocky outcrop, the view from the town is spectacular. Considered one of the most beautiful villages in France, for the last 5 years it has hosted an international art festival that has attracted artists from all over the world. The theme this year was “Dialogues with Goya – The Disasters of War.” I was invited, along with pianist Frédéric Maintenant, to perform for the opening ceremony. That was the 4th of July. after we spent 4 wonderful days just being, being surrounded by beauty. What a joy, work combined with a little holiday. I am blessed.IMG_0381 IMG_0384IMG_0397IMG_0398 I wonder what the rest of the summer holds for me.

The First Time I Saw Mars 

I have recently discovered the wonders of the night sky. Of course I always knew it was there, that unimaginably vast expanse that is the gateway to the universe, but I never really thought much about it, except fot thr ritual full moon conversations. But lately I have been drawn to watching and contemplating. So I purchased a wonderful little app called NightSky2 to help me navigate and learn about that which I knew virtually nothing.
I know the tales of the great astronomers of the past, the Egyptians and Mayans, the Druids and the Dogon, and I have always been astounded by what they knew and how they could know. Incredible knowledge woven from years of observation, careful analysis and precision calculation. I feel a great urge to explore that universe that they knew so well. So with my shiny new app I have been examining the sky. And tonight i saw Mars. When I realized what I was looking at, I felt so moved, even a bit weak. With mouth open and heart beating fast I stood there transfixed, and you know what else, I felt a song well up inside of me as I gazed upon that speck, seemingly so small there next to the moon. After getting over the shock of actually seeing, I felt music. Of course there are those who say they universe is just one big symphony, and I must admit, I do agree. I heard a symphony tonight.

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